6 Tips for Surviving an Economic Crisis with your Self Intact
One Path Will Fragment Your Consciousness, The Other Will Set You Free.

The unemployment rate has reached its highest levels in recent memory. Major US and international companies are restructuring, laying off employees, or just going bankrupt. Food prices are up, oil prices continue their slow rise after Obama's election, and the economy is giving itself a chunky swirlie.

More importantly, my favorite el-cheapo movie theatre has permanently closed it doors. Oh, and that global warming, starvation, and pestilence thing continues unabated.

If you have been addicted to ever increasing levels of external, material gratification as part of your self-definition, ya surely gotta be jonesing by now. Or freaking out. Probably both.

Something is happening here. But you don't know what it is. Do you, Mister Jones?

Last year, about 2.5 million Americans lost their jobs. We could have another 2 to 3 million jobs evanesce in 2009. For many people, losing their job results not only in a loss of income but also self-respect, even their raison d'etre. Despondency, despair, a feeling of victimization, shame, melancholia, terror and anger may quickly follow. Thirty percent of those who have not lost their jobs report "burn out" syndrome due to corporate downsizing. Not that the CEO's salary has been downsized, I mean the number of employees has.

Trying to do more with less, these companies lay off employees and pile the extra work on their remaining serfs. A study published by the Institute of Behavioral Science with a grant from the National Institutes of Health1 shows that these retained employees are prone to greater job demands that may contribute to alcohol and drug abuse, depression, and work related injuries. In addition, the study found that layoff survivors often experience worsening physical health: They tend to eat poorly, smoke more, suffer from neck and back pain, and increase their use of sick days. Workplace injuries also rise.

"None of the effects are good," says psychologist Frank Landy, author of Work in the 21st Century. "Layoffs clearly have emotional and practical consequences for companies and workers." Those psychological consequences can be long-term, lasting six years, according to the study published by the Institute of Behavioral Science. In addition, the effects of surviving multiple layoffs tend to be cumulative. They add up over time.

"It only takes one action of distrust to lose basic confidence in the employer…Once the trust has been undermined, it's very, very difficult to recover," says Landy. "There's no data that suggests workers become more resilient. 'I'm a survivor, hear me shout'? It doesn't happen." Whip a dog long enough and it stays hangdog whipped.

Zen and the Art of Crisis Management

However you sniff around it, it smells like a crisis. But perhaps it is more of a crisis of perception and self-definition rather than a true lack in the material world. Everything is still here, no continents or oceans have been lost. What has changed is how we valuate materials and services, how we exchange our life energy through financial instruments, and how we pledge and guarantee current and future exchanges. Oh, and how much you had accumulated going into this thing.

It's not about the loss (on a macro scale) of any real estate, or other "real", concrete commodities, rather it is more about our expectations and fears, our perceptions and system of values. Yeah, we have kind of built a fantasy world around what we value, and since it is mostly external stuff, others can easily manipulate it. The stock market, exotic unsecured financial instruments, ponzi and pyramid schemes, they all depend on the "bigger fool" theory. And fools who define themselves in terms of what they can possess do abound.

The opposite is true of one's inner values. To paraphrase Blake, cleanse your perceptions and you will see things as they really are. Be present, grounded and centered, and no storm can topple you. If you value emotional intelligence, joy, and the sacred transience of your life and of others over the accumulation of mere things, chances are you will live a rich and abundant life. You can manifest a Zen core of Being regardless of the quantity of material things you obtain, and the relative value our society places upon them. Yes, better to be a Zen beggar blissful in Nirvana than a billionaire debased in a private Hell.

Whether we are fully cognizant of it or not, we are desperatly yearning for something to help us deal with the demons of economic and work-related stress, and the spiritual vacuum within us that gives these demons a place to live.

6 Tips for Self-Mastery in an Economic Crisis

1. Give up your insistence that you are what you do. --your self-definition should include more than your career: Do less, Be more. Stop saying, "I am a lawyer", or "I am a nurse." Replace these "I Am" mantras with the statement, "I work as…." e.g. "I work as a nurse…" You will still be You long after your job or career has changed or disappeared.

2. Don't be a Material Girl. Or Boy.
Don't be a slave to the material world. In the past century, the world economy has depended on ever-increasing levels of conspicuous consumption. Depletion of our planetary, economic, and personal resources follows. Sacrificing your mental, physical and spiritual health for an addiction to material junk with built-in obsolescence and a predilection for planet killing is insanity. Stop it now. Material possessions can't buy you love, happiness, or inner peace, and ya ain't taking it with you when you go.

3. Forget about Money, Focus on Abundance
There is a wealth of beauty around you, awaiting your appreciation, regardless of your socio-economic status in life. Slow yourself down, smell the roses, watch the sun set, eat the wild berries. No one has yet cornered the market on Joy and spiritual bliss is in the public domain.

4. Be Present and Get Centered.
Your fear of what the future holds for you cannot help you now. But obsessively worrying about it can definitely impact your Now. Develop centeredness and confidence based on internal self-mastery rather than external social validation of your identity and self-worth. Be the Change you want to see.

5. Breathe – each full, deep, conscious breath is a gift and holds the potential for higher awareness, inner peace, and joy. And it's free!

6. Invest in your mental and spiritual health.
Your financial investments are dependent upon the value others place upon them. Your personal valuation and self-worth depends solely on how you perceive yourself and your function, your karma yoga, in the world. As such, it is an internal process that can be altered by your Attention and your Intention. Schedule at least 15 minutes each day (an hour is much better) for body centered Meditation, T'ai Chi, Qigong, Yoga, or similar mind-body spiritual disciplines.

You may think you don't have enough time to learn these things, but actually, time is all you really have in this life. How do you want to use it? Chasing after material things that end up owning you, or developing your higher nature and being Present, enlightened, and joyful in your world? Choose carefully, one path will fragment your consciousness, the other will make you whole, and set you free. © 2009 Keith E. Hall and www.inner-tranquility.com All rights reserved.

1Moore, Grunberg, et al. Physical and Mental Health Effects of Surviving Layoffs: A Longitudinal Examination Institute of Behavioral Science, November, 2003

Author's Bio: 

Rev. Keith Hall has studied, practiced, and taught T’ai Chi, Qigong (Chi Kung), Tantra, Emotional Release and Transmutation, Kundalini and Chakra Activation, and Meditation for over 30 years. He has been a senior student of Tai Chi Master Yung-ko Chou, with permission to teach.

Rev. Hall has studied at various Mystery Schools across the world and with Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, S. Saraswati and others. In addition, he has studied Bioenergetics, Ba Gua (Pa qua, baqua), Tumo, Vipassana, Zen, Spiritual Massage, various Yogas, and many other Eastern and Western psychospiritual disciplines. Rev. Hall has published articles on spiritual growth, meditation, and the Tantric and Taoist arts in numerous journals. He is an Ordained Metaphysical Interfaith Minister, and the Founder of http://www.inner-tranquility.com